Sewnarines fined; husband on probation.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: An Indian-origin couple in New York has been fined and sentenced to probation for providing falsified income statements so that they would receive higher Medicaid benefits.
Husband and wife Devindra and Dawatie Sewnarine — ages 38 and 32, respectively — have been ordered to pay back the full amount of benefit money they received as a result of their fraudulent income reports: $36,000, with each being responsible for $18,000. The husband was also given five years’ probation, while his wife was given a conditional discharge by the court.
According to a press release issued today by the New York County District Attorney’s office, the Sewnarines filed for Medicaid benefits in October of 2008, and cited on the paperwork that they only had a monthly income of $1,126.
Investigators, however, uncovered that they actually earned over $200,000 from ten rental properties that they owned and managed in New York and New Jersey.
Additionally, in the span of 2009-2012, the couple deposited more than $300,000 into 13 different bank accounts, and even purchased a $74,000 BMW car at one point.
Devindra, a real estate developer since 2006, apparently had intimate knowledge of how the welfare system works. Since several of the properties he owned housed low-income citizens, he often received rent payments directly from state Welfare Funds.
Both husband and wife were arrested and charged with three criminal counts: third-degree grand larceny, third-degree welfare fraud, and first-degree “offering a false instrument for filing.” On October 25, 2013, they were convicted on all counts by a jury.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. offered a harsh reprimand to the Sewnarines for their actions.
“Public benefits fraud erodes confidence in government assistance programs and undermines support for the truly needy,” he said. “The defendants stole from programs intended to assist our city’s low-income families, collecting benefits they were not qualified to receive.”
A similar case also occurred in New York earlier this year, in which Salim and Tirnawati Bakhsh pleaded guilty to several counts of welfare fraud and submitting falsified paperwork. Wife Tirnawati was sentenced to 1-3 years in state prison and was ordered to reimburse $198,000, while husband Salim was ordered to pay the same amount but only received five years’ probation.
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